Here's the deal.
Sometimes there are people who need help.
And sometimes there are people who can help.
And that isn't a bad thing at all.
And when we take off the blinders that limit what we see to just what we know, sometimes we can reach out a hand to help, and not care at all if the hand is black or brown or white, or any of those other convenient excuses we use so as not to offer our time or resources. And the thread of those willing to give extends on through time.
In 1942 Clarence and Florence Jordan founded Koinonia, an inter-racial community in rurual Georgia. The stores and communty were shot at, bombed, burned and generally harrassed by the Jim-Crowe South of the time, but they survived. In 1968 they took in the young burned-out entreprenuer Millard Fuller and his wife and family, who went on to found Habitat for Humanity in 1976.
Habitat has built more than 500,000 homes worldwide for folks of limited means, and the stories of those builds and the lives changed would fill volumes. One chapter might include the RV Care-A-Vanners, a volunteer program in which volunteers travel in their personal recreational vehicles, making stops at local Habitat affiliates to assist in house construction and renovations.
When Tracy & I served in Peace Corps Belize, Clint & Kathy Norrell served with us in our "classs" of 2009-2011, and in that service we forged an irriducible bond. They have a home in California, but are possessed of an RV, a peripetatic spirit and heart for service. So it was natural that they continue to volunteer their time, at a time when many would simply sit and let the vegetation grow in and around their bones.
Clint & Kathy at Benque Fiesta, Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize 2010
Clint has emailed me with many, many stories of builds he and Kathy have shared. They're in Alice, Texas now, working on another home. I wanted to share part of what he wrote about the initial meeting they had with the folks who will be working on site, where current home owners who benefited from the program spoke:
"The next person to stand was a young, gregarious Hispanic woman. She addressed those gathered for the welcoming dinner at the Lutheran Church on Texas Street with confidence and appreciation. She introduced herself as the recipient of house number four. She asked her mother to stand, her daughter, and then her sister. She then announced that her schedule had been chaotic, but despite being a 30 year old single working Mom, she was due to complete her masters in psych in May.
"A man followed. He was house number six. He introduced his wife, four of his six children, and his first grandchild. He apologized that his third born, a daughter, was at a high school function. His oldest, a 24 year old son, was absent because he was a senior at A&M.
"The attractive woman from house number one brought a cake from the bakery that had evolved from her equity building efforts that qualified her as Alice’s first recipient.
"With a sleepy three year old on her shoulder and a shy little girl clinging to her waist, the future owner of this year’s house barely got through introducing her parents, kids, and even her boss from the bank, before breaking down and crying through an extended thank-you.
"She wasn’t wiping her eyes any more than I was."
Folks who qualify for a Habitat home are required to invest 500 hours of time into the project; they own the home and pay a mortgage like every other homeowner, only the cost of the home is limited to the cost of materials, and generally they pay no interest. The money goes into the fund for more Habitat homes. The default rate is less than 2 percent.
Sometimes it's hard to understand that life isn't really about what we have. It really is about people. What we can do for each other, not how much we can get from each other. It really is that simple. We tend to make it complex, as complexity hides the fact that we really don't want to share what we have, in material or time.
Clint and Kathy get it. This then, is a salute and a hello to them and the build team in Alice, Texas.